America is a country steeped in history, and many fans of days past don’t mind travelling far and wide to visit and experience places of great historical impact. However, there are many such places right in America’s heartland, the Midwest. From Abraham Lincoln to Elvis Presley, here are seven great historic sites that you can visit without ever leaving the “flyover states.”
Angel Mounds State Historic Site; Evansville, IN
Nestled snugly against the Ohio River in southern Indiana, Angel Mounds was the site of a prehistoric Native American village. The village, surrounded by a stockade wall constructed from wattle and daub, was home to an estimated 1,000 people at its peak. The mounds are often mistaken as “burial mounds,” and while some did indeed contain(ed) the remains of villagers, the mounds were used more as a symbol of status within the village. The bigger your mound, the more prominent your family was. Tradition held that when a member of the family died, they were buried under the dwelling, hence the remains in the mounds. Several notable archaeological discoveries have been made at the site, but few can rival the discovery of the “Kneeling Man” statue. Made of yellow fluorite, it was discovered inside the Temple Mound. Among other things, it is significant because yellow fluorite is not found naturally in that specific area of the country, which lends credence to the idea that Angel Mounds was a part of a vast prehistoric trade network. Today, the site hosts many events, interpretive programs, day camps for youngsters, and a top-notch staff and volunteer group. At first glance, the site may seem like a glorified field will some random hills in it, but just like the artifacts found on the site suggest, the more you dig, the more you will discover.
Graceland; Memphis, TN
How can you NOT include Elvis Presley’s fabled home on a list like this? Posh (for the time period), huge, and converted into a kind of living museum, Graceland is a rock’n’roll fan’s cathedral. The final resting place of Elvis, the Jungle Room, and all of the other oddities and quirks that made Presley the famous character that he was are on full display. While you’re in the area, you’d be remiss to not check out other music meccas such as Beale Street and Sun Studio. Graceland was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006, and is the third most visited private home in America, behind the White House and the Biltmore mansion.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park; Hodgenville, KY
Our 16th President came from humble beginnings in the Midwest. He was born in Kentucky, spent his formative years in Indiana, and eventually settled in Illinois before becoming one of the greatest POTAs in history. Tucked away in Hodgenville, Kentucky is the place where he was born, and while the original cabin that he was reportedly born in was dismantled long ago (apparently sometime in the late 1800’s), there is a replica preserved at the park. At the age of two, his family left their residence on Sinking Springs Farm to nearby Knob Creek farm, where other period replicas can be found, along with a cabin that is supposedly from Lincoln’s era (though did not belong to his family) that was moved to the original spot of the Lincoln cabin.
Harriet Beecher Stowe House; Cincinnati, OH
For the literature buff, the Harriet Beecher Stowe House is a pretty great little stop if you’re in the area. Manned mostly by volunteers, it focuses on the impact that Stowe’s work “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had on American history (though she had moved from the home by the time she wrote the influential book). Her entire family seemed to be social activists, including sister Catherine who helped found several girl’s schools, brother James who held command of the first African-American troops that fought for the Union Army, and numerous others. It is said that when she met President Abraham Lincoln, he said “So you’re the little woman that wrote the book that started this great war?!”
Mark Twain Boyhood Home; Hannibal, MO
The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum is a unique place, just as Mr. Samuel Langhorne Clemens was a unique person. The site hosts the house that inspired many of the aspects of his novels, such as Tom Sawyer’s white picket fence. It is also unique because administrators have brought in and restored several other buildings that belonged to friends of Twain’s who were the inspiration for many of his characters. The museum is home to several first editions of Twain’s, as well as some of his prized personal possessions, including one of his white suit coats and his Oxford gown.